VIDEO: Trooper speaks about dangers of impaired, distracted driving

September 9, 2014
trooper-carr-2b

Trooper Sean Carr

(Seattle) The year was new, the weather still dark and cold when a threat to drivers intensified during the morning rush-hour on Interstate-5.

An SUV traveled south in the northbound lanes.

It struck one vehicle, then continued.

Then, it struck another. Still, the SUV pressed on.

Trooper Sean Carr heard the call from dispatch on that January morning.

    An erratic, wrong-way driver.

Carr understood the threat level.

“Lots of people are off to work, getting kids off to school or getting them to daycare,” he recalled months later.

As Carr travelled north on I-5, the SUV approached and showed no sign of slowing.

“I had to take her SUV head-on with this patrol car,” Carr shared.

Carr, whose wife and father-in-law are also state troopers, knew this was the type of moment he’d signed-up for when he joined the Washington State Patrol seven years earlier:  a moment to serve and protect.

Carr said he made a split-second decision.

“I knew there was a trooper behind me, who was actually a cadet, with his field-training officer riding with him. They were in direct line with the SUV behind me. There was plenty of northbound traffic already on the roadway… And I knew that she’d already struck two other vehicles and continued. And if I did not put myself in front of her, she was going to keep going.

“I made the conscious decision to sacrifice my patrol car, and even potentially sacrifice myself, to stop that (SUV) because as a state trooper, I believe in that; that I am here to run towards the gunfire.  I’m here to help people, save people and, if need be, to lay my life down for those people.”

The memory of the moment of impact on that morning nine months ago has stayed with him.

“I think about it every time I put on my vest on and jump in my car,” Carr said.

Incredibly, no one was seriously hurt.

Safety features built into the patrol car—crumple and crush zones—helped minimize Carr’s injuries.  His vehicle returned to the road after two-months in a repair shop.

Police said the SUV’s 19-year-old driver was intoxicated.

Carr is acutely aware that the driver and her passenger were fortunate to have survived.

“Absolutely.  And in previous years, I responded to, basically, a mimic situation: A young lady who was going the wrong way, southbound in the northbound lanes…. And she ended up striking a small pickup truck with two teenagers inside, of which the young  female teenager lost her life instantly. And the young male driver, he was in serious condition and in intensive care for several months.”

Carr recalled the moment when police first made contact with the impaired driver in that crash.

“We were literally putting the flames out on her vehicle while she was still in the driver’s seat with a broken leg. And she’s asking us, why did we pull her over?  She had no recollection or knowledge that she had just ended someone’s life and sent somebody else to the intensive care unit.”

Carr said that, in one year alone, he responded to three cases involving wrong-way drivers who were drunk.

“I personally can’t stress enough the importance of communicating with your kids,” Carr said.

“Parents need to talk to their kids about the fact that, you know what?  If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. But instead of risking your life and risking the lives of numerous other people, call somebody. Call your mom. Call your dad. Call your uncle. Call your aunt.  Your brother. Your sister.  Somebody that is sober and can come take care of you. You’d be better off calling mom and dad and letting them know that you’re not okay to drive, than me calling mom and dad and meeting them at the doorstep and telling them that you’ll never drive again.”

DOL produced the two videos below featuring our interview with Trooper Sean Carr. 


Washington Drivers Getting 6-Year Licenses

August 14, 2014

OLYMPIA—Starting this month, most Washington drivers renewing their licenses will have an additional year until their next visit to the Department of Licensing as the state transitions from a five-year driver license renewal cycle to a six-year cycle.

By extending the renewal cycle to six years, drivers in our state won’t have to visit DOL offices as often. Over time, this change also will reduce the number of drivers and ID card holders visiting DOL offices each year. This will help keep wait times as low as possible for all our customers.

The cost of a basic driver license or ID card will remain at $9 per year, but most customers will be paying for an additional year, so the total renewal cost will change from $45 for five years to $54 for six years.

Moving to a six-year driver license is expected to reduce the average number of annual renewals by more than 100,000. In order to evenly distribute all of our state’s licensed drivers into six years of roughly equal and lower renewal volumes, some drivers will be selected to receive a license extension for less than six years.

Beginning August 10, approximately 20 percent of drivers with licenses expiring in October will be selected at random by DOL’s license issuance system to receive a five-year license. The remaining 80 percent will receive a six-year license.

DOL will continue this gradual transition for the next five years by selecting 20 percent of drivers each year to receive licenses valid for less than six years. During the second year of this process, 20 percent of drivers will get a license valid for four years. In the third year, 20 percent will get a license valid for three years. In the fourth year, 20 percent will get a two-year license. In the final year, 20 percent will receive a one-year license.

Drivers randomly selected to receiving shorter renewal periods will only pay for the number of years their license is valid and will be eligible to renew online.

Click here for more info on DOL’s website.


Don’t Let a DUI Ruin Your Summer Fun

August 12, 2014

Law Enforcement Will be out in Force on DUI Patrols

field--test-1Summer is a time for parties and picnics in the sun, but don’t let a DUI ruin your fun.  Even though Washington legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older, it is still illegal and dangerous to drive under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.

“Specifically, we want people to know that marijuana doubles the risk of a fatal crash,” said Darrin Grondel, Traffic Safety Commission Director.

“With new retail marijuana stores in the mix, we want to remind the public that prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as illegal and recreational drugs, can impair driving ability,” Grondel said.

That is why between August 15 and September 1 extra officers will be on our roads looking for drivers under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs during the annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. Many of these officers have special training to identify when a driver is under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

Drivers are encouraged to find alternative transportation or ride with a sober designated driver. “More people may be using marijuana recreationally, but that should never be mixed with driving,” said Lt. Rob Sharpe, Commander of the Washington State Patrol Impaired Driving Section.

Lt. Sharpe noted that law enforcement has been arresting drugged drivers for a long time and will continue to identify and arrest drivers who make the poor choice to drive under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs.

Additionally, law enforcement reminds young drivers that impairment laws are much stricter for anyone under the age of 21. A young driver who has any marijuana in their system or a blood alcohol concentration of .02 or higher is considered to be driving under the influence and is at risk for arrest.

One hundred and sixty-six law enforcement agencies in Washington have obtained grants to participate in this Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.  Police departments, sheriff’s offices and the Washington State Patrol will be working together to cover the state in extra DUI enforcement.

All of these extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com. Additional information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found on the website, www.wtsc.wa.gov.

 


Washington signs driver license agreement with Taiwan

August 7, 2014

reciprocity-agreement-signing-080514-1OLYMPIA— A new driver license reciprocity agreement between Taiwan and Washington state will make life a little easier for drivers wanting to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as university students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. It gives the same option to Washington residents living in Taiwan.

“This agreement allows the Department of Licensing to honor the driving tests previously taken by a citizen of Taiwan just like we would when serving a currently licensed driver from another state,” Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler said.

Driver licensing officials here and in Taiwan worked together to evaluate each other’s driver licensing requirements and testing processes. This ensures drivers who hold either license are fully qualified to operate a vehicle safely in both places.

The agreement was finalized at a signing ceremony on August 5th in Olympia. Director General Andy Chin of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle joined Licensing Director Kohler in signing the agreement.

The agreement takes effect immediately. Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL driver licensing office.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen signed the agreement as a witness when it was signed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei during a trade and cultural mission in June.

“I see this agreement as a small, but important step—one of many—that have been taken in recent times to make commerce, travel and tourism that much easier between Taiwan and the state of Washington,” Owen said.

This is Washington’s fourth international driver license reciprocity agreement. The state has similar agreements with British Columbia, South Korea, and Germany.


Everyone Has a Responsibility to Keep Motorcyclists Safe

June 9, 2014
Be sure to look out for motorcycles.

Be sure to look out for motorcycles.

OLYMPIA—Summer is here and the Department of Licensing, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, and the Department of Transportation are reminding drivers of cars, trucks and buses to look out for, and share the road with, motorcycle riders.

 
To raise awareness about tragic but preventable motorcycle crashes, 17 large road signs are scheduled to be installed this summer in locations across Washington where fatal motorcycle crashes are highest. These signs should remain in place for 10 to 15 years.
 
“Increasing safe motorcycle riding and cooperation among all road users is essential to reaching Washington’s goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “Motorists and motorcyclists are all responsible for making sure everyone arrives home safely.”
 
In Washington, motorcycle deaths are not steadily declining like overall traffic deaths. Motorcycles make up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles on our roads, but account for almost 15 percent of the traffic fatalities (2009-2011 average). Even worse, in 2012, motorcycle fatalities accounted for 19 percent (83 out of 438) of the total traffic fatalities in our state.
 
On a per-vehicle-mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured. Speeding, running off the road, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are the main contributing factors in these crashes. Motorcyclists should always ride sober and within the posted speed limits, get the required training and endorsement, and wear DOT compliant helmets and protective gear.

Governor Inslee joins others governors in proclaiming May as Motorcycle Awareness Month

May 8, 2014

Motorcycle-Awareness-Month-procIn 2013, 73 motorcycle riders in our state were killed in collisions.

Governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation making May our state’s Motorcycle Awareness Month is designed to:

  • promote caution and recognition of motorcycles on Washington roads and highways.
  • reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities associated for all motor vehicles.
  • encourage riders to participate in rider education programs.

As motorcycles are smaller and less visible than most other vehicles, they can be more difficult to see. Reducing distracted diving and eliminating impaired driving will help operators see motorcyclists and give them the space they need.

Your Washington Motorcycle Safety Program encourages all vehicle operators to follow the rules of the road including obeying speed limits, following distance, signaling intentions, and yielding the right-of-way.

With spring turning to summer, the number of motorcyclists on our roads will be increasing.

Washington riders are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters.

A moment more of attention could help save a rider’s life.  That rider could be a family member or friend.

Look Twice – Save A Life.


State begins rolling out six-year driver licenses on February 10

February 6, 2014
WA DOL

WA DOL

Beginning February 10, all new driver license applicants will receive a license that’s valid for six years, as the Department of Licensing starts transitioning from a five-year to a six-year driver license.

New driver license applicants include individuals applying for their first license and those who are transferring their licenses from another state.

The per-year cost for a driver license will remain at $9 per year, but new applicants will pay for the additional year, which changes the fee from $45 to $54, not including the $35 application fee.

Adding a new motorcycle endorsement for up to six years will cost $2 per year.

Washingtonians who are obtaining their first Washington state ID cards will also be issued a card valid for six years beginning on February 10, at a cost of $54, or $9 per year.

Those renewing a current Washington driver licenses or ID cards will start transitioning to a six-year renewal period later this year.

In 2012, the Washington State Legislature authorized extending driver’s license terms from five to six years to improve customer service by reducing customer volumes and wait times in driver license offices.


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